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Treatment of oncology with immunotherapy

What is it, how does it work and when is it prescribed
Cancer is not a final death sentence. This disease can and should be fought. For the research and development of the latest innovative method of combating the disease in 2018, James Ellison and Tasuku Honzo were awarded one of the highest awards - the Nobel Prize. We are talking about immunotherapy.

How it works, when it is prescribed and what the side effects are - all these questions will be discussed in the article.

What is immunotherapy

Immunotherapy or biotherapy is a newer treatment method that artificially stimulates a person's own immune system to fight cancer cells.
Let's briefly describe how cellular cancer treatment works. As is known, lymphocytes of groups T and B are responsible for the immune response. On their surface there are special receptors - checkpoints. It is these protein elements that recognize pathology and then start the process of destroying viruses and bacteria.

The situation is different with autoimmune diseases. A tumor is its own, but already changed cells, which the immune system practically does not recognize and does not try to cope with. The pathology grows and over time spreads throughout the body.

Another important point is that cancer cells, as a rule, try to “mimic” and protect themselves. Therefore, tumor elements can:
produce few foreign substances visible to immune checkpoints. Accordingly, lymphocytes “do not notice” them.
produce components that suppress the functioning of immunological cells.
Immunotherapy can currently help cope with the disease. The patient is given specially developed drugs that actually help natural antibodies to “recognize” tumor cells as harmful and then destroy them. Unlike traditional radiation and chemotherapy, this treatment is not poisonous or dangerous.

Types of immunotherapy in the treatment of oncology

Experts offer several types of immunotherapeutic treatment:

  • Anticancer vaccination.

It’s paradoxical, but true: vaccines for malignant tumors have the same effect as drugs for infectious diseases. In the case of oncology, the technique allows the immune system to develop a quick, active response when specific proteins of malignant cells are formed in the body.

Of course, immunological vaccines differ from standard ones, but the general principle of action is the same. Introduced antigens or elements of immune cells, relatively speaking, “teach” a person’s natural defense to recognize the disease and fight it.

  • Treatment with monoclonal antibodies (CAR-T therapy and targeted therapy).

This is a cell-mediated type of treatment. In the first case (CAR-T cell therapy), the mechanism is implemented as follows: CAR-T cells are extracted from the human body and modified genetically, that is, a so-called chimeric antigen receptor is attached to them, which is responsible for recognizing abnormal elements. Then they are administered back to the patient in the form of a finished drug for subsequent active work on destroying the tumor.

Targeted therapy has similar principles of implementation. But in this case, specialists develop specific antibodies for a specific patient or select drugs that also fulfill their tasks of destroying abnormal cells after entering the human body. These are new types of drugs such as immunostimulants and immunomodulators Keytruda (Pembrolizumab), Nivolumab (Opdivo), Ipilimumab (Yervoy) and some others.

Another amazing property of cell therapy is that monoclonal antibodies can not only be programmed. But also, relatively speaking, “attach” to them special drugs used in radiation or chemotherapy. After entering the human body, these antibodies act as a carrier that delivers the medicine directly to the affected area.

  • Treatment of cancer with stem cells.

A treatment method rarely used in our country. Its essence lies in the fact that previously extracted blood-forming cells obtained from the bone marrow or bloodstream are implanted into the human body. This allows you to restore the number of healthy leukocytes and other important blood elements.
In severe cases, the donor may be immediate family members.

  • ICTI therapy (immune checkpoint inhibitors).

This is a treatment method with a group of drugs aimed at blocking receptors on tumor cells. Due to the suppressive effect of immunological agents administered intravenously or directly into the area of the tumor, the antitumor activity of the so-called killer T cells is enhanced in the patient’s body. These are special cells of the immune system (lymphocytes) that are responsible for lysis (destruction, dissolution) of damaged cells of the human body.

Thus, immunostimulating drugs activate natural defenses and make it possible to successfully treat many types of cancer at any stage of development.

This is a modern innovative technique for the treatment of malignant neoplasms. Combines perfectly with all classical methods of antitumor therapy. Sometimes confused with a method such as stem cell cancer treatment. But here the mechanism is based on the introduction into the body of drugs created on the basis of special cytokine proteins, which can and successfully resist the process of development of cancer cells. For maximum effectiveness, cytokines (interleukins and interferons) are created artificially, based on the results of genetic tests.
Experts also divide immunological therapy into active and passive. The first group includes vaccines, targeted and CAR-T therapies. The second is ICTI and cytogenetic treatments.

Immunotherapy: for or against?

Today, immunotherapy can help treat tumors localized: ·
  • in the lungs, head and chest;
  • on the neck, skin (melanoma);
  • in the genitourinary system;
  • and etc.
Russian medicine often recommends surgical intervention. But for some cases, immunotherapy has shown good results. In particular, in the treatment of cervical, ovarian and breast cancer.

Who is prescribed immunotherapy?

Experts recommend immunotherapy in cases where other types of treatment are found to be ineffective or have already been tried. In addition, this method allows you to increase the chances of successfully fighting cancer, regardless of location and stage, in the long term.

Thanks to fundamental research in this area, scientists have found that the use of immunotherapeutic drugs:
  • “restarts” the natural defense mechanism to fight malignant cells;
  • allows you to regulate the strength of the immune response;
  • enhances and complements basic treatment methods;
  • qualitatively improves the treatment process in terminal stages of cancer;
  • gives a minimum of complications and reduces the likelihood of relapses in the future.
But even here there are pitfalls. Immunological drugs are not effective for everyone. Instead of destroying the tumor, they can only slow down its growth or, after a while, stop working altogether. The reasons have not yet been identified; years of research lie ahead. In addition, this type of therapy has its own side effects.

A serious disadvantage of immunological treatment is also such a parameter as selectivity. Not every type of cancer is amenable to drugs; the prescription is always purely individual.

Two more significant disadvantages of immunotherapy are the duration of treatment and high cost. That is, in any case, the decision must be made carefully and only after a full examination.

Complications of immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is approved for use at any stage of the disease and this is a fact. It can be used even in cases where all other methods have been exhausted and stage 4 metastases have appeared. There are several exceptions: oncology of the hematopoietic, bone systems, and thyroid gland.

As patients themselves note, immunological treatment methods provide a minimum of side effects. When the drugs are administered, there is no sharp drop in blood counts. Sometimes during treatment, the immune system can “fail” and perceive healthy cells as damaged. This may cause problems with:
  • with mucous membranes. Ulcers may appear in the oral cavity, which, with timely treatment, disappear in 1-2 weeks;
  • skin, which is expressed in an allergic reaction (redness, swelling, dryness, cracks, etc.);
  • general condition (weakness, chills, cough, low-grade fever);
  • Gastrointestinal tract (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea);
  • lungs (shortness of breath, swelling)
  • cardiovascular system (hypo- or hypertension, heart rhythm disturbance);
  • endocrine system (weight changes, muscle pain, etc.).
Such reactions are expressed in different ways, so you should consult your doctor before treatment. In any case, complications are rare and, if treated in a timely manner, quickly disappear.

Cost of immunotherapy

The immunological method of treating oncology is considered the most modern, innovative therapy. The total cost of specialist services and medications is usually considerable and largely depends on the severity, degree of cancer, and the presence of complications. In addition, the production process of immunotherapy drugs is complex and expensive, which also affects the price of treatment.


Immunotherapy is the latest and highly successful method of treating oncology of any stage. For professional advice contact OncoCareClinic 308. Our specialists do not guess how to recognize cancer, but use advanced methods of identifying the disease and its effective treatment, regardless of location and stage.
Call +7 (499) 322-23-08.
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